730 Photos Later…

I’ve been scanning photos for the last two weeks, two large cardboard boxes of them. Mostly black and white, they chronicle the early lives of my mother-in-law and her family. I really should be devoting this time to my thesis, but there is a deadline with this project, too. My mother-in-law has Alzheimers, and I’m hoping that she’ll still have enough good days to help identify the generations of unlabeled photos. 

Cowboy Harold

Harold in his cowboy suit. 12/27/1914

While this isn’t a school project, I’ve still been thinking about how the technology of photography has changed our culture. This is the oldest photo I have scanned. On the back, it says, “Harold’s favorite cowboy suit, an Xmas gift from Fred. December 27, 1914.” You may have noticed the lack of snow…I’m guessing Harold is part of the San Francisco Andersons. Without photography, it’s likely that Fred (my husband’s great-uncle who lived in Minneapolis) would never have seen young Harold in his cowboy outfit. The San Francisco Andersons regularly sent pictures of weddings and studio photographs, helping to maintain and create new relationships with the family back in Minnesota. The images are formally posed, and embossed with the names of professional photography studios. 

Gottfred and Anna Anderson Then the camera moved out of the hands of professionals and photographs were more candid and spontaneous. Understand, the Anderson family had 11 children. If one of the boys posed in a swimsuit for a photo, you’ll have at least three or four others. 

Personalities can be seen, not only in the photos but also in the way people wrote on their photos. Take Gottfred (who you’ve already met as the cowboy-outfit-giving Fred), carrying his wife Anna. She wrote the caption, “Oh how my daddy can love!” 

Fred and KathrynJudging by the way he made Grandma Anderson laugh in this photo, Fred was quite the cut-up. The technology of faster cameras and faster film allowed these moments to be captured. No longer were people required to sit absolutely still while the film was exposed. 

As we move into the 1960s and beyond, photography became less cost-prohibitive. Introduction of “Instamatic” cameras meant anybody could take photographs. I notice that in my mother-in-law’s collection, while the number of photographs increased, the quality generally decreased. Witness the effort to capture the perfect photograph of my husband (as a toddler) for the annual Christmas card. That thing he’s carrying around is a sign with a message for Santa Claus.


Last minute repentence in an attempt to make the Good Kids list


Prayers become more desperate, adds the rally cap



Note the plastic covering on the living room chair



Readying a prescient Cup of Christmas Tea



Faking being asleep so Santa can come



Maybe we can get the new chair in the Cmas card


In the next posting, the Owens Family Christmas card will be revealed….

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